Filling President Lincoln's size 14 shoes

Lincoln impersonator Robert Broski takes a walk in Old Town Pasadena.
Lincoln impersonator Robert Broski takes a walk in Old Town Pasadena.
Sanden Totten/KPCC

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Presidents Day is national holiday. But for presidential impersonators, it’s no day off. KPCC’s Sanden Totten took a stroll with a Lincoln look-alike in Old Town Pasadena to find out what it takes to fill the 16th president’s shoes.

When you’re walking around dressed as Abraham Lincoln, don’t be surprised when people come up to you with questions.

“Do you remember the name of the play you were going to see the night your were assassinated?” Larry McZeal asks Lincoln impersonator Robert Broski.

Broski racks his brain.

“Our … something cousin ... ,” he stammers.

Broski says sometimes passers-by stump him with questions like that. The play he was forgetting was called "Our American Cousin." Rather than get upset at his knowledge lapse, Broski says it's a learning opportunity.

“There is so much to know about Mr. Lincoln. There is over 10,000 books on Mr. Lincoln," he says. "And they are writing them all the time. Every time I go into a bookstore there is a new book about Mr. Lincoln.”

Broski lives in Covina. He’s been portraying Lincoln for a few years now at schools, political events and even Civil War re-enactments. He cuts a striking likeness to the 16th president. He has a period-perfect black frock coat, the classic Lincoln beard — and it’s the real thing. Broski is authentic from his stovepipe hat right down to his shoes.

“Size fourteen, just like Mr. Lincoln himself,” Broski points out. "That’s another comparison I have to Mr. Lincoln.”

That’s not all. Right there on his long, gaunt cheek, Broski has mole – just like Abe.

“I had always been kidded as I got older that I resembled Mr. Lincoln. And then I decided that’s my fate," he says. "I was put on this earth to present Mr. Lincoln. And if I don’t do it then shame on me.”

Walking down the street, you can bet Broski turns heads. Every few feet, he stops to have his picture taken. He’s great with the attention, always willing to chat with curious bystanders or shake someone’s hand. He says being Abe gives him a rare opportunity to walk up to anyone he sees and strike up a conversation.

“If I were just anyone one the street I would probably get punched, or scratched," he jokes. "Or they would call the cops on me. But I can get away with it dressed like this. It’s really nice.”

Of course, some people crack jokes. Some people blame him for the Civil War. Some people just treat him like a weirdo. But Broski doesn’t mind. When someone approaches him skeptically, he makes the most of it.

“Why are you dressed like this?” asks a giggling Tony Maude.

“Well, sir. I am out presenting Mr. Lincoln to anyone who has a question or wants to shake hands,” Broski replies.

“Wow, this is a great country," Maude says. "I am glad I came here as a child. Thank God. This is the best.”

Broski says it's interactions like this that make him put on the Lincoln persona.

"Him saying it’s a great country ... ," Broski remarks. "How often have you been hearing that lately? Not too often. Everyone is slamming the country. I mean, that lifts your spirits.”

And with a grin, a tall and proud Robert Broski walks down the street … a little taller, a little prouder … just like Abe.